Headline RoundupJune 27th, 2023

Supreme Court Rejects ‘Independent State Legislature’ Theory in Elections Case

Summary from AllSides News Team

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against North Carolina lawmakers, who argued the U.S. Constitution exempted state legislatures from judicial review in election cases. 

Key Quotes: Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the Constitution’s Elections Clause “does not insulate state legislatures from the ordinary exercise of state judicial review.” Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissented, saying the ruling unnecessarily committed the Federal Judiciary to an “uncertain path.”

For Context: The “independent state legislature” theory has been used in legal arguments to defend purportedly gerrymandered congressional districts and to oppose state court rulings on absentee ballot policies during the 2020 election. If the Supreme Court had accepted it, it could have allowed state legislatures to pass election policies with little oversight from courts. 

How the Media Covered It: Coverage in right-rated outlets often framed the “independent state legislature” theory as mundane, with Fox News (Right bias) simply stating the ruling meant “state judges do have the power to override state legislatures.” Fox also cited “GOP advocates” concerned that state courts could “intervene in future election proceedings.” Meanwhile, coverage from left-rated outlets often framed the theory as “fringe,” with Axios (Lean Left bias) calling the case a “sweeping conservative bid to control elections.” Politico (Lean Left bias) said the theory would have given state legislators “unchecked power to set election rules.”

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